The Letter of the Law or The Spirit of the Letter
As we attempt to get things done here in Costa Rica we are beginning to see a common theme. Whether it is opening a bank account, creating an account for Internet for our upcoming move, or canceling a service, the power of the letter in Costa Rica is impressive.
You may be confused…A letter, what is that? Well, if you remember, it is a written or typed document, on an actual piece of paper, and can state many things depending on its purpose. Many times it just states our names, passport numbers and that the person writing it is our best friend and has been so for many years – despite the fact that we just met.
To open our bank account, scratch that, to attempt to open our bank account, a work still in progress, we needed a letter of recommendation and a utility bill. The ARCR, a great letter-writing organization (practice makes perfect), provided the recommendation letter. Unfortunately, when we were in San Jose to get fingerprinted and to open a bank account, we did not have a utility bill with us; it was our understanding that our attorney would “take care” of this requirement. Well he was unable to, so back in Grecia we attempted to open the account – utility bill and recommendation letter in hand.
“Sorry, this utility bill is in your landlords name; we need a letter from your landlord stating that you are renting from him – don’t put how long you are renting from him, just your names, passport numbers and that he is your best friend and he has been for many years, thank you. Oh, and also, I need a letter from your attorney instructing our bank how to handle the funds, since they will be used for residency purposes, and also stating that you all are great friends.”
…to be continued
Joseph Heller Would be Proud
In October we will be moving and will therefore have a new landlord. Our new landlord was telling me a story the other day about trying to attempt to have his landline phone service shut off. His home, like many in Costa Rica, is owned in a CR corporation and his phone bill is under that corporation as well. It stands to reason that the phone company would need a letter stating that he was in charge of the corporation and had the authority to shut off the service. This he provided and he waited for 30 days for the service to be shut off and to receive his deposit back.
You may be thinking, “What happened after 30 days”? And you may be surprised by the answer – or not so much. Well, it turns out the letter, in this case, has a shelf-life of 30 days and because of the 30 day notice needed to turn off the service the letter provided 31 days earlier is now obsolete…. They’ll need another letter.
Vanna, Give Me a Letter
The essence of the letter needing in Costa Rica is this; it is the characters of the content that fulfill the requirement for the letter and not necessarily the content writers character; put another way, the letter is for the letters sake.
The spirit of the letter is the fulfillment of bureaucracy, plain and simple. Whether it is a stamp, seal, signature, document or yet another letter the true purpose of the required requirement is not to validate or assure but to prolong and ensure…ensure that the bureaucracy survives and thrives.
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In addition to writing on this blog, Greg has written for other online publications and has written two popular books about living in Costa Rica:
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